Federal Magistrate Decides (Non-)Indian Status of Defendant in General Crimes Act Case

Here are the materials in United States v. Loera (D. Ariz.):

DCT Order Denying Motion to Dismiss

Loera Motion to Dismiss — Indian Status

USA Response

An excerpt:

Defendant’s motion and the government’s response raise matters for the Court’s consideration which other courts have left for another day. See Means v. Navajo Nation, 432 F.3d 924, 934–35 (9th Cir.2005). The resolution of the issues requires the Court to journey into the world of “Indian Law” which has been described as a “complex patchwork of federal, state and tribal law, which is better explained by history than by logic.” United States v. Bruce, 394 F.3d 1215, 1218 (9th Cir.2005) (internal quotations omitted). Indian law has also been described as “schizophrenic”: “Federal Indian policy is, to say the least, schizophrenic. And the confusion continues to inform federal Indian law …” United States v. Lara, 541 U.S. 193, 219, 124 S.Ct. 1628, 1644–45 (2004) (Thomas, J., concurring).


This case presents a unique factual and jurisdictional conundrum apparently of first impression. Notwithstanding the 1990 amendments to the Indian Civil Rights Act, codified at 25 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq., the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe has declined to prosecute a defendant who may be an “Indian” and the Tribe’s decision is apparently based solely on the defendant’s lack of tribal membership, i.e., the Tribal Court has determined it does not have jurisdiction under its laws.

And finally:

Since its first enactment in 1817 (3 Stat. 383), additions added in 1854 (10 Stat. 270), sequent codification in 18 U.S.C. § 1152, and the enactment and amendment of the Indian Civil Rights Act, the language of section 1152 has never been amended, yet the government has entered into nine separate treaties with thirteen separate and distinct tribes obligating the federal government to remove all “bad men” from those tribes’ lands and prosecute them in federal courts when requested by the Tribe, exactly what occurred in this matter. In order to give validity to those treaties, as the Court is obligated to do, and which Congress has not repealed, and even though the treaties are with tribes other than the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, the use of the term “Indian” in section 1152 must, as Judge Sneed concluded, mean an Indian who is a tribal member. As such, should this Court have concluded Defendant was an “Indian” section 1152 would not grant him immunity from federal prosecution as he is not a tribal member.